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Lincoln district to spend $1.4M on new buses with seat belts

May 28, 2019

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Lincoln Public Schools will purchase 12 new school buses equipped with lap and shoulder seat belts following new recommendations from a federal safety agency.

The Lincoln Board of Education approved the $1.4 million plan this month, the Lincoln Journal Star reported. The board last month adopted a National Transportation Safety Board recommendation to ensure all new buses have seat belts.

The issue of whether the safety measures should be required in school buses has been debated for decades.

The NTSB and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had said for years that passengers are adequately protected by large buses’ design, with the close spacing of seats and energy-absorbing seat backs. The organizations had argued that children are about 70 times more likely to get to school safely in a school bus than in a personal vehicle.

Some student transportation advocates have raised concerns that seat belts could make it more difficult for children to escape should a bus be submerged in water or on fire. But seat belt supporters have argued that the bus design doesn’t properly protect against side-impact crashes and rollovers.

The NTSB switched its position last year after investigating two bus accidents in Tennessee and Maryland that collectively killed two people and injured 37.

Ryan Robley, the Lincoln district’s transportation director, said equipping buses with lap and shoulder seat belts costs between $10,000 and $20,000 more.

More than 3,600 students in the district use school buses. None of the 84-seat buses have lap belts and neither do some of the older, smaller buses, said Liz Standish, the district’s associate superintendent of business affairs.

“We will have a mix of seat belt configurations in our buses for many, many years to come,” Standish said. “We believe all of them are engineered to keep students safe.”

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Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com

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